NEWS:  November 20, 2006

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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães

“CATHOLIC DIVORCE” SPEEDED UP  –  Last October the Canon Law Society of America published the first English commentary on Dignitas connubii, the norms issued by the Vatican in 2005 concerning marriage annulment processes. This commentary aims to orient American Bishops and ecclesiastical officials on how to proceed with annulments.

The norms encourage Church courts to work “efficiently and reach decisions on marriage cases as expeditiously as possible but insist that no shortcuts be taken in the serious matter of determining whether a marriage is valid,” Jerry Filteau from CNS reports.

A traditional Catholic marriage

Before Vatican II, marriage was forever
The text tries to save face by affirming that “the Catholic Church does not permit divorce or the dissolution of a valid, consummated marriage between two baptized Christians. But it has detailed norms and court procedures for determining whether an apparent marriage was not really valid at the time it was contracted” (The Tidings, Oct. 27, 2006, p. 4).

I think it is hypocritical for the Vatican and the Bishops to pretend that they are not promoting divorce when, in fact, they increasingly have taken practical measures to make it easy and to speed up the process. Catholic History has never seen such an escalation of the number of “annulments” of marriage as has appeared after Vatican II. The United States is the saddest example, leading the list of annulments granted. The name, divorce, is forbidden, but in all other matters it is the same as a divorce.

The Conciliar Church sabotages the institution of marriage by easing the way to declare it invalid. Today it is quite simple to declare fundamental error of person or lack of maturity of one of the spouses in assuming the responsibility of marriage in order to receive an annulment.

Before Vatican II the procedure was quite simple. After the matrimonial solemnity was made before the Church with Sacrament conferred, and marriage consummated, each party had 24 hours to assert any possible fundamental error of person. One of the picturesque examples of error of person that used to be given in high school Religion classes was that of persons who would marry by correspondence and only on the nuptial night would the groom realize that the beautiful bride he had chosen was actually wearing a wig and had no hair. Further, she had a glass eye and wooden leg. So the groom made a mistake: he thought he was wedding one person and actually had married another. This was called a fundamental error of person. The hoodwinked spouse had 24 or 48 hours, I don’t remember exactly, to find a priest and enter into due procedure for an annulment. After that deadline, no appeal was possible: the marriage was forever.

Shattered Faith

In her book, Sheila Kennedy complained at the hypocrisy of the annulment process and defended the legitimacy of her marriage
Moral vices, psychological defects, emotional differences, unknown physical diseases, social or economic misrepresentations were never considered sufficient reason to make a marriage null. Nor were the problems that could occur further along in the marriage – disillusions, incompatibility of temperament, verbal or physical violence, bad example, squandering the family patrimony, etc – considered just cause to release the matrimony bond. The extremely rare cases where the Pauline Privilege (1) would be applied only served to confirm the rule: In the Catholic Church there is no divorce. This is why Catholic marriage was so stable, and justly called the foundation of the social order.

1. The Pauline Privilege contemplated the case in which, in marriages of spouses of different religions, one party would seriously jeopardize perseverance in the Faith of the other. Such cases, after being duly demonstrated and extensively studied, could dissolve the Catholic marriage.

Nowadays, almost any defects or shortcomings of one spouse that do not meet the romantic expectations of the other can be proffered as an excuse to annul the bond of matrimony.

The situation that was already bad before 2005 when these new norms were issued by the Vatican, has become worse now. With the English translation of the norms and commentaries, we can only expect a further increase of “Catholic divorces” in the United States.

ONLY SIX PER CENT OF THE ABUSES  –  I have not seen the media give due emphasis to an important piece of news regarding pedophile sex abuse by priests. The California Office for the Safeguard of Children issued a communiqué stating that according to several studies, only 6 % of all children report sexual abuse by an adult. The other 94% do not tell anyone, or speak of it only to a friend who swears secrecy (The Tidings, October 20, 2006).

This datum seems very important given that the communiqué does not restrict these percentages to abuses in California. It allows us to apply the figure to the whole United States and make a projection of the extent of pedophile sex abuse by priests. Thus, if I am not mistaken, all the atrocities that were denounced in court from 2000 on, represent no more than 6 % of the actual quantity of sexual abuse of children perpetrated by the Clergy. The reader can make his own appraisal of what this represents. It is an impressive perspective that adds enormously in gravity to the sin of the abuser priests and the cover-up by the Bishops and the Vatican.

The news from the Office for the Safeguard of Children also reports that most of the children who say they were abused are not lying. Studies verify that less than 5 % of all the allegations of abuse are intentionally false.

BEATIFICATION TROUBLES –    While the Vatican seems to be anxiously hunting for any kind of “miracle” to be attributed to John Paul II in order to hasten his difficult-to-prove sanctity, one of the important members of the Roman tribunal in charge of the beatification process was declared a “non-saint.” Indeed, Fr. Michal Jagosz, the Polish chairman of the six-member historical commission of the Roman tribunal, has been named by Polish newspapers as a former Communist secret police agent.

John Paul II addresses half nude natives

Problems in the canonization process of JPII, pictured here addressing half nude natives at Papua New Guinea
According to Poland’s Rzecspospolita daily, Fr. Jagosz was recruited as a Communist spy before moving to Rome in 1984 to assume a Vatican assignment. The priest was exposed by a fellow clergyman, Fr. Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski, whose detailed book on the infiltration of Communism in the Church was released by Znak publications last month (The Tablet, October 7, 2006).

As is known, a process of canonization always begins in the place where the candidate was born, raised or worked. It is a Diocesan process that investigates the life of the person in detail. Once the local process closes with an indisputable conclusion of heroic virtue practiced, then the case is sent to Rome for a more rigorous and extensive analysis, which is also divided into several phases.

In the case of JPII the situation is more complicated due to two factors: first, since he lived for a long time in Krakow and then in Rome, there should be two simultaneous processes; second, since Benedict XVI ordered his process to be speeded up, there could be questions about the seriousness of the investigation. Cardinal Saraiva Martins, on April 2, 2006 confirmed in an interview that since JPII died in Rome, his case has been analyzed by the Vicariate of Rome along with a special investigation in Krakow.

Regarding the conclusions reached in Krakow that have already been sent to Rome, local protests are surfacing that jeopardize them. Indeed, this parallel process by the Archdiocese seeking documents and testimonies regarding the “heroic virtues” of JPII has been strongly criticized for declaring the work complete after just five months of investigation (ibid.).


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